My favorite Christmas memories


“Remember how big the lights were on Grandpa and Grandma’s Christmas tree? As big as my hand!”

“And some of those were the bubbling lights, remember? We stood and watched those bulbs and just couldn’t believe such magic was possible.”

The memories were flowing as we gathered last weekend for our own quietly subdued (though not actually quiet) Christmas, just a mother and her daughters.

Sometimes it is wonderful to simplify in numbers, to return to the nest those who once started out this journey together.


Our own tree was always a real one, cut with a hacksaw, carried into the house by Dad, bringing the scent of all things Christmas into our living room.

The box of multi-colored tree lights and our simple decorations had been brought down from the attic. Popcorn was popping and cranberries placed in a bowl.

Mom was preparing a needle and thread for the big girls, and my job was to search for the best popcorn to hold up through the piercing, dropping those fluffy ones into the small bowl of cranberries.

“I figured out Mom had us string cranberries and popcorn to keep us busy so we would have something to do besides beg to open a present,” one of my sisters said.

“Well, I would say you might be right…if I was ever that smart!” Mom said with a laugh.

Christmas Eve

The night of Christmas Eve was always our own little family celebration, gathering around that most beautiful tree after the evening milking was done.

The wonderful scent of a special supper in the making added to an excitement which was bubbling over throughout the house.

Earlier in the month, our parents would have taken us to Woolworth’s to buy gifts for one another.


Counting my quarters, nickels and pennies, I would have to ask for a secretive huddle or two with Dad or Mom to be sure I had enough to stretch for each gift. There was never enough money, and never enough time, a necessary life lesson learned early.

I remember dissolving to tears in the middle of the store once after hearing, “The store will be closing in 20 minutes,” fearing we would be locked in forever if we didn’t find one another and head for home before that allotted time was up.

Back home safe and sound, we wrapped our simple gifts as Christmas music played, and Mom peeled oranges sent from her only brother, who lived in Florida. The citrus scent of a fresh orange still evokes Christmas, all these years later.

Sitting around that simple tree, taking turns opening the gifts we had chosen for one another brought such joy. We learned that it really was every bit as exciting to give as to receive.

Christmas day

Christmas morning in our very early childhood we climbed into the backseat of the car with a blanket or two, still dressed in pajamas, for a trip to our maternal grandparents’ home.

Mom would have packed the car the night before, and after a simple breakfast, we were ready for a big celebratory day.

We were the first to arrive, but always the first to leave, because even on Christmas the day had to be scheduled around milking times.

It is such simple moments that eventually and collectively spin into the memories we carry with us for the rest of our lives.

The sights, the scents, the joy shared which magically grows, still, all these years later.

From my home to yours, I wish you all a very blessed Christmas filled with joy, and memories that grow beyond the season.


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!

Previous articleRemembering Christmas traditions of 1957
Next articleUSDA issues permit for Santa’s reindeer
Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.



Receive emails as this discussion progresses.